Russia Admits Ukraine Port Strike in U-Turn, Claims 'Military Targets' Hit

Russia has admitted its forces are responsible for launching the missiles that hit the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Saturday, backtracking from its initial denial of involvement in the attack, which had raised doubts over a crucial grain export deal.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry, wrote on her Telegram channel on Sunday that "Kalibr missiles destroyed military infrastructure in the port of Odessa, with a high-precision strike."

Russia's Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed the strike on the port of Odessa, saying that the missiles only hit military targets.

"In the seaport in the city of Odessa, on the territory of a shipyard, sea-based high-precision long-range missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the U.S. to the Kyiv regime," Konashenkov told a daily briefing.

The port in the Ukrainian city was hit by cruise missiles only 12 hours after Russian and Ukrainian delegates signed a deal to get grain blocked in Ukraine out of the country and onto world markets, casting doubt on the viability of the deal.

According to Ukrainian authorities, the port was attacked by four missiles, two of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defense.

The damage caused by the strike is unclear: Ukraine's southern military command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said that no grain storage facilities were hit, while Turkey's defense minister said he had reports that one grain silo had been struck.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack "a cynical one" and "a blow to the political positions of Russia itself."

"If anyone in the world could still say that some kind of dialogue with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what is happening. Today's Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the very possibility for such statements," he said on Saturday.

The attack was also condemned by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said it cast "serious doubt on the credibility of Russia's commitment" to the much-celebrated grain deal and "undermines the work of the U.N., Turkey, and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets."

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Turkey reported that Russian authorities had denied any involvement in the missile strikes on Odessa.

"In our contact with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were examining the issue very closely and in detail," Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement, adding that "such an incident" right after the signing off the agreement "really worried us."

It's unclear why Russia has now decided to backtrack from its initial stance on the attack.

Update, 7/24/22 11:30 a.m. ET: This breaking news article was updated to offer more context on the story.

Russia Ukraine War
In this photo provided by the Odesa City Hall Press Office, firefighters put out a fire in the port after a Russian missiles attack in Odesa, Ukraine, Saturday, June 5, 2022. Russian missiles have struck Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa just hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed deals to allow grain exports to resume from there. Odesa City Hall Press Office via AP